Silicon Valley nonprofit Watsi announced today that it has raised a $3.5 million philanthropic growth round designed to fund its administrative functions. This is the second round of funds the organization has made and will likely help it to keep going for the next two to three years as it pursues a mission of providing people much-needed medical operations.
This new investment also signals the start of a new chapter for Watsi as it looks to scale. Chase Adam, the firm’s chief executive, has made a bold proclamation of its goal, reaching 1 million patients by 2020 — certainly not an easy task, since Watsi revealed it helped 5,000 people in the past two years. There is a plan to jumpstart this, however, and Adam told VentureBeat that it rests on two things: Watsi better marketing itself, and implementing an institutional model to get governments, health care companies, and others to donate.
At its foundation, this Y Combinator graduate is a crowdfunding platform enabling anyone to directly fund potentially life-changing health care for people around the world. More than 14,200 people have donated through Watsi’s website to date, but when you factor in contributions coming from its Tencent partnership, Adam estimates that it’s close to 100,000 donors. The average one-time donation made by a user is $40, but for recurring donations, it’s $32.
The service now supports patients in over 20 countries, including Cambodia, Kenya, Tanzania, Guatemala, and Nepal. It has also expanded its care offering, funding more than 170 different procedures, including heart surgery, cancer care, and brain tumor removals.
Watsi’s next step is to move beyond individual donations and tap into open-sourcing structured health care data to improve efficiency and effectiveness of institutions. The organization has received grants to fund a malnutrition clinical trial at a hospital in Guatemala, with the goal of taking the data and giving it to other nonprofits to leverage in improving health care for all. What the trial examines are two groups: one that receives treatment for malnutrition, and another that also receives education on how to overcome malnutrition.
Adam wants to change the way health care providers and institutions view data that’s collected. Instead of just identifying the patients, such as what procedure they need, he suggests using the data to tell a story. What Watsi hopes to extract are details about why an operation costs what it does; understand what’s happening on day 1, 5, and 10; and the degrees and quality of success. All of this is to hold hospitals more accountable and give more information to supported organizations about where best to take patients for operations and care.
The $3.5 million round of funding was led by Y Combinator’s Paul Graham (who also sits on Watsi’s board), Tencent, The Pershing Square Foundation, Ron Conway, Vinod Khosla, Jasmine Social Investments, The Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, and other individual investors.
Previously, Watsi raised $1.2 million from many of the aforementioned investors.
Adam thinks that there’s plenty of opportunity for Watsi to grow and hit its milestone of 1 million patients helped within the next 4-plus years. According to the World Health Organization, up to 40 percent of the $7 trillion needed to fund health care is lost due to inefficiency. Watsi believes that potential donors may be growing tired of their money not necessarily getting to the right people or cause. Because it’s a technology firm, Watsi makes it easier for patients and supporting organizations to get the money more quickly — no middleman is involved.